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Switching In-House to Bay Street


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Guest Anonymous

As the title reads. Posting anonymously for obvious reasons. 

I've worked in house for my entire career. Articles through to around 8-9 years of call.  I have enjoyed the benefits of in house life: good hours, good work life balance, engaged with the client group on a day to day basis, strategic work that goes outside the law. I'm not unhappy with my job, really. Usual gripes about resourcing. 

The downside: the pay and the pigeonhole. 

A position has been repeatedly posted at a big-name Bay Street firm that falls squarely within my area of practice. I'm comfortable where I am, but I'm also a new parent and $$ is an issue.  Long term career, a stint on Bay Street wouldn't hurt, either. 

So, my question for discussion: has anyone ever made the jump from in-house to Bay Street? What was it like? How stark was the difference?  Is this idea insane? How would if affect career prospects to slog it out for a few years then jump back in house? 

Also, can someone point me to the salary bands for these firms (Toronto)? I'm having a hard time finding a definitive up-to-date list. 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, y'all. 

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I get invites to go back to Bay St all the time. It's not for me right now in the stage of life I'm at, but I don't see why it would be a problem if you're ready to put in the hours and meet the demands.

For 8-9 years of call, you'd probably be looking at entry level partner compensation, so around $225-$250K, with significant upside. Just a guess, though.

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Bob Jones
  • Lawyer
17 hours ago, Guest Anonymous said:

As the title reads. Posting anonymously for obvious reasons. 

I've worked in house for my entire career. Articles through to around 8-9 years of call.  I have enjoyed the benefits of in house life: good hours, good work life balance, engaged with the client group on a day to day basis, strategic work that goes outside the law. I'm not unhappy with my job, really. Usual gripes about resourcing. 

The downside: the pay and the pigeonhole. 

A position has been repeatedly posted at a big-name Bay Street firm that falls squarely within my area of practice. I'm comfortable where I am, but I'm also a new parent and $$ is an issue.  Long term career, a stint on Bay Street wouldn't hurt, either. 

So, my question for discussion: has anyone ever made the jump from in-house to Bay Street? What was it like? How stark was the difference?  Is this idea insane? How would if affect career prospects to slog it out for a few years then jump back in house? 

Also, can someone point me to the salary bands for these firms (Toronto)? I'm having a hard time finding a definitive up-to-date list. 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, y'all. 

If you’re referring to the Baker & McKenzie L&E gig which has been sitting for a while, my understanding from discussions with recruiters is that they only want candidates with stellar grades, even if you’ve got good experience. I’d still give it a shot though, worst case you’re back in the same situation you are now. 
 

The hours will be longer/more weekend work but it sounds like with your level of experience you have something meaningful to bring to the table. Bring something interesting to interviews. Talk about what you’ve done and you’re grateful for the gig, but you want to dive into actual carriage of files and working with clients directly. Your background in house has exposed to you to the business side of things which will help you advance your clients’ interests as a whole as you have good context as to what’s going on at a high level. Etc. 
 

Basically, have some fluffy answer ready to roll about why you’re leaving, but in a positive way as opposed to the obvious negatives.  

Also, a lot of firms are open to a hybrid remote/in office arrangement so now is a great time to explore that option long term  

anyway that’s just my two cents about the process of making a move. People change careers/firms/industries all the time, so I wouldn’t worry about that at all. 
 

Good luck!

Edited by Bob Jones
Hybrid work and grammar
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Ben
  • Law Student
1 hour ago, Bob Jones said:

If you’re referring to the Baker & McKenzie L&E gig which has been sitting for a while, my understanding from discussions with recruiters is that they only want candidates with stellar grades, even if you’ve got good experience. I’d still give it a shot though, worst case you’re back in the same situation you are now. 

I’m a student so asking purely out of curiosity: does this mean Baker McKenzie is checking the grades of potential hires who are well out of law school? Is that common practice? I feel like I always hear people suggest grades don’t matter at all once you have some experience. 

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Bob Jones
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1 hour ago, Ben said:

I’m a student so asking purely out of curiosity: does this mean Baker McKenzie is checking the grades of potential hires who are well out of law school? Is that common practice? I feel like I always hear people suggest grades don’t matter at all once you have some experience. 

I'm a few years out and I recently moved firms to an L&E role. I would say it was not uncommon to ask for your transcripts, but outside of the national Bay Street firms, most firms don't ask for your transcripts or don't really emphasize it too much once you're a few years into practice. BLG for example didn't ask for it on their application portal, but Baker & McKenzie seems to really emphasize it. 

 

So to answer your question, if your transcripts aren't the greatest, do what you can to pick up your marks they're still important but you will still be able to do fine. Perhaps while you're still new to the profession and you're making jumps (should you choose to) there may be some emphasis on your marks, but as you get on with your years of practice your results and experience will be more important. 

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Ben
  • Law Student
21 minutes ago, Bob Jones said:

(…)

Cool, thanks for explaining! That’s good to know. 

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Guest Anonymous
11 hours ago, Bob Jones said:

If you’re referring to the Baker & McKenzie L&E gig which has been sitting for a while, my understanding from discussions with recruiters is that they only want candidates with stellar grades, even if you’ve got good experience. I’d still give it a shot though, worst case you’re back in the same situation you are now. 
 


I appreciate that you took the time for such a thorough response (truly), but no that is not the position I’m looking at.  

The subfield is pretty specialized, which is why I suspect it has been up for so long.  

They do specify they want transcripts - but I’m almost a decade out from law school so I’d hope that would take a back seat to experience.  

That said, I graduated in top 5% so I’m not too worried about grades. 

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  • 3 months later...
Guest Anonymous

Just as an update, I’m in the thick of the application process and likely have my first interview next week. 

Not that anyone cares!  But if any former Bay Streeters have tips on interviews, or any general advice I’m all ears. 

Associate position at one of the “7”. Partnership track.  
 

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Bob Jones
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6 hours ago, Guest Anonymous said:

Just as an update, I’m in the thick of the application process and likely have my first interview next week. 

Not that anyone cares!  But if any former Bay Streeters have tips on interviews, or any general advice I’m all ears. 

Associate position at one of the “7”. Partnership track.  
 

Good luck ! 

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t3ctonics
  • Lawyer
21 hours ago, Guest Anonymous said:

Just as an update, I’m in the thick of the application process and likely have my first interview next week. 

Not that anyone cares!  But if any former Bay Streeters have tips on interviews, or any general advice I’m all ears. 

Associate position at one of the “7”. Partnership track.  
 

Good luck! We will watch your career with great interest.

I'm in-house with a few years of large firm experience, around the same year of call. I intend to stick with it for now, but I could see private practice being attractive again when my kid is a little older. The relative stability of hours is more important than the money for me right now - but I do live in a low cost of living area.

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Jaggers

Yeah, I've recently had a few of my old mentors approach me about going back into their firms, but the timing is not good for me right now with a three year old. In a few more years when he's settled into school it might be a more attractive option.

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer

I have been seeing it a bit more. Some senior in-house folks returning to practice as partners. Some people hit a ceiling and find it's not what they wanted.

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jdavis
  • Lawyer
On 5/12/2022 at 4:02 PM, Rashabon said:

I have been seeing it a bit more. Some senior in-house folks returning to practice as partners. Some people hit a ceiling and find it's not what they wanted.

Bingo. Some in-house jobs are so good that people don't leave. That's good! But when your boss is the GC who's been there for 20 years ... sometimes there's no opportunity to move up.

How are folks finding the billable expectations at that level? I'd be open to a return to private practice if I could bill 1000-1500 hours and everyone was cool with that. I have kids now, time is worth more than money. IIRC partners at my old firm were all over the map on billable hours ... but not sure whether that was 'we tolerate a bad year now and then', or if the firm just lets them bill their 800 hours and year-end comp reflects that.

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Jaggers

I'd go back into a role where I did some sort of client service role as well as billing hours, and the compensation could reflect that, but I would never go back into an 1800-2000 hours a year billing role.

Or whatever the number is. But I have kids and stuff going on, and do not prefer to be billing rather than spending dinner/evening hours with them.

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Bob Jones
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On 5/18/2022 at 9:54 PM, Jaggers said:

I'd go back into a role where I did some sort of client service role as well as billing hours, and the compensation could reflect that, but I would never go back into an 1800-2000 hours a year billing role.

Or whatever the number is. But I have kids and stuff going on, and do not prefer to be billing rather than spending dinner/evening hours with them.

I think the firm and working hours/flexibility helps with that. My firm expects me to bill in that range, and there are days where I bill 10-12 hours. But I’m also mostly working from home, I can take a break to tuck my kids in to bed or hang out a bit  and then go back to work. Log off later in the evening. 
 

So yes the hours can sometimes be more gruelling, but the remote/hybrid lifestyle really helps with that. And if it means my income can grow a lot more quickly and I can afford a good quality of life for my family, I think that’s a decent trade off. In house would be great if I want to take a step back and coast, but 2-3% annual raises won’t get you very far. 

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I'm not really interested in "taking a break" to tuck my kids into bed then going back to work. I quit work mostly by 5, cook a nice dinner, take an hour or two of quality time with the kid, then relax for the evening. To me that tradeoff is worth it. I only make $200,000, and my ceiling is probably not much higher than that, but I have everything I want. I am not sure exactly how my life would be different if I made twice as much money. Probably a bigger apartment, but not much more than that.

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Bob Jones
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7 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

I'm not really interested in "taking a break" to tuck my kids into bed then going back to work. I quit work mostly by 5, cook a nice dinner, take an hour or two of quality time with the kid, then relax for the evening. To me that tradeoff is worth it. I only make $200,000, and my ceiling is probably not much higher than that, but I have everything I want. I am not sure exactly how my life would be different if I made twice as much money. Probably a bigger apartment, but not much more than that.

Sounds like a good situation to me! 
 

It also helps if your spouse makes a decent comp. If you’re in a smaller town then hopefully cost of living is lower too. 
 

I’m tempted to throw everything away and start fresh in Florida. Cheaper housing, warm climate, less taxes. Better quality of life. I think the pay is less though, and not to mention all the social issues they have down there. 

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I would not move to the US right now. At all.

We live in downtown Toronto, so not a low cost-of-living place. Things would look different if we had to buy our nice apartment now, but luckily I graduated more than 10 years ago, so I am one of those many beneficiaries of the Toronto real estate market over the last 10 years.

I did put gas in my car today and it cost me $90, when I don't think I've ever paid more than $60 before. But that was the first time I bought gas since around Christmas, so not really a big issue for me.

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Rusty Iron Ring
  • Lawyer
3 hours ago, Jaggers said:

I'm not really interested in "taking a break" to tuck my kids into bed then going back to work. I quit work mostly by 5, cook a nice dinner, take an hour or two of quality time with the kid, then relax for the evening. To me that tradeoff is worth it. I only make $200,000, and my ceiling is probably not much higher than that, but I have everything I want. I am not sure exactly how my life would be different if I made twice as much money. Probably a bigger apartment, but not much more than that.

I have to think this kind of approach is going to get more common in private practice.  There are a ton of people of our vintage or younger who are just not interested in what an 1800 hour lifestyle has to offer.  And it turns out you can totally get by without living that way. You'll never have the career of the people who do, but then they'll never have the life of the people who don't.

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5 hours ago, Rusty Iron Ring said:

I have to think this kind of approach is going to get more common in private practice.  There are a ton of people of our vintage or younger who are just not interested in what an 1800 hour lifestyle has to offer.  And it turns out you can totally get by without living that way. You'll never have the career of the people who do, but then they'll never have the life of the people who don't.

It will be interesting to see where this goes. My mentors from my old firm are now mostly my clients, and are fairly senior partners with various big firms around the city, and they are constantly ranting about the expectations of associates these days. I mostly sympathize with the associates, since I don't want to work evenings and weekends either, but I also don't expect to make Bay St money. I'm sure there are plenty of go-getters as always, but I do think the culture will have to shift somewhat.

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On 5/20/2022 at 8:04 PM, Jaggers said:

It will be interesting to see where this goes. My mentors from my old firm are now mostly my clients, and are fairly senior partners with various big firms around the city, and they are constantly ranting about the expectations of associates these days. I mostly sympathize with the associates, since I don't want to work evenings and weekends either, but I also don't expect to make Bay St money. I'm sure there are plenty of go-getters as always, but I do think the culture will have to shift somewhat.

Hasn't it always been like that ? I am a mid-level associate at a large firm. I have seen a significant turnover during the past year and half and I cannot say the partners or senior HR people looked impress. It feels like this is how the large firm model is supposed to works: they hire a large number of driven students and that expect approximately a tenth will still be around after eight years to become partner. Otherwise, they'll poach associates from smaller firms (who might have had more limited exit options). 

I am not trying to be cynical, but I am genuinely curious 10 or 15 years ago, associates were more comfortable with working evenings and week-ends. 

It might also be that, because of WFH and everything, people are now working more evenings and week-ends than they did before - which could understandably create resistance. 

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2 hours ago, AHLALA said:

Hasn't it always been like that ? I am a mid-level associate at a large firm. I have seen a significant turnover during the past year and half and I cannot say the partners or senior HR people looked impress. It feels like this is how the large firm model is supposed to works: they hire a large number of driven students and that expect approximately a tenth will still be around after eight years to become partner. Otherwise, they'll poach associates from smaller firms (who might have had more limited exit options). 

I am not trying to be cynical, but I am genuinely curious 10 or 15 years ago, associates were more comfortable with working evenings and week-ends. 

It might also be that, because of WFH and everything, people are now working more evenings and week-ends than they did before - which could understandably create resistance. 

I don't know if it's different. I haven't worked in a firm since 2013. These partners are telling me it's different.

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Rusty Iron Ring
  • Lawyer
12 hours ago, Jaggers said:

I don't know if it's different. I haven't worked in a firm since 2013. These partners are telling me it's different.

We aren't biglaw, but my more senior partners definitely feel that it's different.  

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Spreckles
  • Lawyer
On 5/20/2022 at 10:47 AM, Jaggers said:

I'm not really interested in "taking a break" to tuck my kids into bed then going back to work. I quit work mostly by 5, cook a nice dinner, take an hour or two of quality time with the kid, then relax for the evening. To me that tradeoff is worth it. I only make $200,000, and my ceiling is probably not much higher than that, but I have everything I want. I am not sure exactly how my life would be different if I made twice as much money. Probably a bigger apartment, but not much more than that.

I’m the same as you. I make about $250k all in and have my evenings and weekends free. I don’t see how making more than that will change my life in any meaningful way financially, but day to day, would be working crazy hours. 
My spouse makes a bit more so we gross to about $550k, and spend our evenings and weekends with our kids. 

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Bob Jones
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14 hours ago, Spreckles said:

I’m the same as you. I make about $250k all in and have my evenings and weekends free. I don’t see how making more than that will change my life in any meaningful way financially, but day to day, would be working crazy hours. 
My spouse makes a bit more so we gross to about $550k, and spend our evenings and weekends with our kids. 

Lol making a household income of 550K makes a huge difference

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